Contain Jerious Norwood. Michael Turner is the face of the Falcons' running game, but Norwood might be Atlanta's most singularly dangerous weapon. He averaged 6.0 yards per carry as a running back last year — tops among NFL players with at least 70 attempts — and ranked 11th in the league in kickoff returns (25.3 ypr). The Lions had issues covering kicks in the preseason and last year, and can't afford to let Norwood get loose today.
Interesting take in having to stop the number 2 back. But The Lions need to shut down every facet of the Falcons' offense, period. If they can't stop the lowly Falcons, who can the Lions stop?
At the News, the semi-retired Mike O'Hara picks today's winner:
The Falcons are rebuilding with rookie quarterback Matt Ryan, making his first pro shot. If the Lions running game stumbles -- and even when it doesn't -- Kitna can throw the ball to Calvin Johnson, Roy Williams, Shaun McDonald or Mike Furrey. The defensive line should put heat on Ryan. The Lions will get their season rolling. Pick: Lions.
Totally agree, in principle. Maybe it's just the long abused Lions fan inside me, but I have a nagging feeling the game is going to be much closer than it should be.
The Freep's beat guy, Nick Cotsonika makes a prediction as well:
The Lions need to jump on a rebuilding team with a new coach (Mike Smith) and a new quarterback (Ryan). Johnson and Williams could have a big day on offense. The defense must stop the run and harass Ryan.
One thing the Lions need to watch for: gadget plays. Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey was known to run them at his other stops in the NFL, and the Lions are well aware of it. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry said they spent a lot of time going over that with the players.
Prediction: Lions 24, Falcons 10
Pretty much the same beat writer party line, save for "OMG! WATCH OUT FER TEH GADGETT PLAYS!!1!1" If gadget plays beat the Lions, they have major, major issues.
We can't forget the Killer, can we?
If there's such a thing as momentum entering the opener, the Lions own it. A 4-0 preseason, regardless of their opponents, raises the hopes of Lions fans everywhere. The team itself is beginning to believe that it has a legitimate shot at making a playoff run this season if all goes well. It should be intoxicating against the Falcons.
Lions 27, Falcons 17
Intoxicating? Good Lord, Killer. Been filling up on the cornbread and Kool-Aid? I do hope you're right, though...